Wednesday, November 29

The New Arrival by Vanya Nastanlieva

In accordance with the FTC, Quill Café would like to disclose that the reviewer borrowed this book from the library. No monetary compensation was offered to him by the author or publisher. Cover art is copyright Simply Read Books.

This is a book about Sam. That's right, a story where a hedgehog is granted a name that doesn't start with the letter "H." It's a miracle.

Sam has been ousted from home at only a few weeks old. Typical. Now the little guy has to find a new home for himself.

It doesn't take Sam long to find a place to live...but it does take him forever to find any sign of another living creature. For all Sam knows, he is living in a post-apocalyptic world and is the last of the living.

In reality, all of the animals in the forest are being trolls, creeping on him from out of sight. Every – single – one. They let this poor prickly plebeian wander through the forest all alone, desperately seeking companionship.

It's true, sometimes the animals are right behind Sam or under his nose, but he can't be blamed for missing them. Hedgehogs have poor eyesight. One of them could have very well spoken up, the savage beasts!

When he still can't find anyone – after struggling up hills and through horrible weather – he turns to drastic measures. Sam begins to pull out his spines to pin notes to trees. Don't ask me how he has access to paper or ink. I have no idea. I do know that hedgehog spines are not like porcupine quills. They are not easily removed and they are not that sharp. They also cannot get apples and strawberries stuck to them. Sam must be cursed.

Sam's story is a tragic one. Eventually the other animals decide to put him out of his misery and greet him, but by this stage he has already developed a serious case of trichotillomania. Sam's physical and mental health has suffered because of his loneliness. His new "friends" try to help him, but they can never fully repair the damage that has been done.

'The New Arrival' is a commentary on the harsh realities of striking out on your own. It is not for the faint of heart.

Friday, November 24

Where Are My Books? by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

In accordance with the FTC Quill Café would like to disclose that the reviewer borrowed this book from the librart. The opinions expressed are his and no monetary compensation was offered to him by the author or publisher. Cover art is copyright of Simon and Schuster.

Spencer loves books. Like many readers, he rocks out to a particular genre – water-dwelling creatures. This kid is probably going to grow up to be a marine biologist. Or a librarian.

His favourite books is 'Night-Night Narwhal.' When it inexplicably goes missing, Spencer flips out. I would! When more books start to go missing, he must use his ingenuity to solve the mystery.

'Where Are My Books?' is the story of an avid reader. It shows that in times of turmoil, it's important to not lose your head. Instead, put it to use! Also, to be lenient with people who steal yo' stuff. I'm not so sure about that part. If someone stole my books, I'd be miffed! Perhaps Spencer is just a kinder creature than I am. I regret nothing.

I feel that the book also touches on the importance of extending your reading. If Spencer had knowledge outside of fish, amphibians and water mammals, he might have been clued in earlier. I might be reading into that, but that's one of the things I took from the book.

I loved the shameless plug of Debbie Ridpath Ohi's other books, 'Naked' and 'I'm Bored!' I look forward to reading them.

If you enjoy 'Where Are My Books?' I also recommend 'The Snatchabook' by Helen and Thomas Docherty.

Monday, November 20

Wade Wilson’s War by Duane Swierczynski, Illustrated by Jason Pearson

In accordance with the FTC, Quill Café would like to disclose that the reviewer borrowed this book
from a nefarious individual. He held it hostage for many moons. No monetary compensation was offered to him by the author, illustrator, inker, colourist, letterer, or publisher. He could use some to pay for therapy. Cover art is copyright Marvel.

This was my first Deadpool comic. I am scarred for life.

Not because of the violence, or the language, or the crazy. No. It is because the comic book people played with my mind. They made me question my own sanity. I did not like it. They are the Weapon X of my life and this is my origin story.

The comic starts off savvy. There is intrigue and Deadpoolian humour. Wade is recounting his deadly shenanigans to some official stiffs. There are many scene cuts/flashbacks. New readers who know &^%# all about Deadpool get some insight into his origin story.

Deadpool is a special soul. He is a loony, a maniac. He is also aware that he is a comic book character and breaks the fourth wall. It is marvelous. These traits are all executed in 'Wade Wilson's War' – but then things get whack, and I don't mean Deadpool-fun-times [lewd pun redacted].

The narrative is psychotically skewed. This is expected from the mind of Deadpool, but this comic tries to imply that all of Deadpool's antics do just that – happen inside his mind. He is still crazy, but the reader is lead to question whether he is enlightened or just delusional, and the comic is full of conflicting information. Deadpool says this, security footage shows that. What is real? Who is alive? Who is dead? Is Wade Wilson just a crazy man who thinks he has superpowers?

'Wade Wilson's War' takes the unreliable narrator trope and [innuendo metaphor redacted]. If that sounds good to you, read it – but be warned. You may exit this journey with conflicting emotions and more questions that you can contain.

Am I real or a fiction? Am I free or a puppet? Am I sane or a prisoner of my own imagination?

I no longer know.

Friday, November 17

Batgirl at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee

In accordance with the FTC, Quill Café would like to disclose that the reviewer borrowed this book from the library. The opinions expressed are his and no monetary compensation was offered to him by the author or publisher. He's still waiting to hear back about that side-kick position. Cover art is copyright Random House Books for Young Readers.

Barbara Gordon wants nothing more than to be a superhero. When she gets a formal invitation to join Super Hero High – as Batgirl – her dreams are realised. Now all she has to do is prove herself to her peers, her father and herself.

This is the third book in the Super Hero High series, but you don't have to read them in order. I didn't. Barbara is an intelligent girl and a tech wiz, so a lot of the novel revolves around ingenuity and technology. There is also a real bat in the book! I liked that – but for all Babs' creativity, she isn't great at naming things. Batty? Come on. Robin Williams already claimed that one.

Then there's Barbara's father, Commissioner Jim Gordon, who is not happy about his daughter attending Super Hero High because it's "dangerous." Please. Gotham City is a cesspool. It doesn't help matters that Batman apparently doesn't exist. Metropolis is less crime-infested, full of superheroes, and Babs can learn to defend herself from professionals. He has no case. Except for "feelings." Apparently daddy-feelings are a valid argument.

I do not understand why Jim has a part-time job teaching at Super Hero High. He and Barbara have to commute to and from Gotham and Metropolis. Is Commissioner a flexible position? It obviously doesn't pay well.

Batgirl plays to the "lone wolf"(lone bat?) persona that comes with the cowl. She doesn't like it when her friends defend her. She thinks it means they see her as weak or incapable. Never fear! She is not doomed to be a tortured soul like Wayne. The Super Hero High books are all about the friendships.

There were a couple of moments when I thought that maybe, maybe Batman was out there. But he really doesn't seem to exist in this universe. It's great that this young version of Batgirl can stand strong with an origin all her own. But...BRUCE! What became of you? I fear we may never know.

There are some cunning moments with Batgirl. Yes, she is intelligent and an over-achiever, but she is more than just a reluctant teacher's pet! There is a glorious moment when Batgirl utilises crisis negotiation tactics to manipulate others to get what she wants. I loved it.

Batgirl's best friend, Supergirl, makes for questionable support. She keeps pestering Babs with things like "Aren't you stressed/nervous?" What is wrong with this girl? Keep a little bit of your hot mess to yourself! Miraculously these things do not seem to faze Batgirl – and when she does need a genuine pep talk, Supergirl delivers.

A character pairing I had not considered previously was Batgirl and Cyborg. They have a good dynamic, with both being all about the technology stuff. I was not sure if they had smoochy-smoochy potential, or if I was just reading into this. So far the only hint of romance is the reciprocated crush between Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor...and they just stare and stutter at each other. It's awkward.

'Batgirl at Super Hero High' is narrated by Mae Whitman, who voices the character in the DC Super Hero Girls cartoon. The novel is self-contained and ties up nicely, but the epilogue includes a cliff-hanger for the next novel, 'Katana at Super Hero High.' Sneaky!

Thursday, November 2

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy by Lynley Dodd

In accordance with the FTC, Quill Café would like to disclose that the reviewer borrowed this book from a human. The opinions expressed are his alone and no monetary compensation was offered to him by the author or publisher. Cover art is copyright of Penguin Books NZ.*

Hairy Maclary
was up to no good.
He was out to patrol
his neck of the hood.

Pursued by his crew,
first - Hercules Morse.
A gang leader needs
his muscle, of course.

Bottomly Potts
was his dog on the street,
he knew every secret
of the horde and elite.

Muffin McLay
was his trusted advisor,
though his hipster haircut
would make you none the wiser.

Bitzer Maloney
was Maclary's bookie.
He could always sniff out
a chump or a rookie.

Schnitzel von Krumm
was Maclary's best snitch.
He could get all the dirt
without gaining a stitch.

Maclary's boys leered
through windows and doors,
they strutted down streets
and loitered near stores.

Onlookers knew something
was about to go down,
when the gang confronted
the toughest cat in town.

Notorious gangster
Scarface Claw
withdrew his guns
and let out a roar.

The six canine goons,
they yelped and they fled,
they scurried back home
and curled up in bed.

When pondering street gangs
children, be wary -
and remember the dangers
of Donaldson's Dairy.

*Little blue penguins are native to New Zealand. They are very cute.